Newton — Having one world-class musician in your community is rare. Having three in one family may very well be unique.
Yet a residence in Newton Highlands houses just such a unique threesome. It is home to two internationally famous classical guitar virtuosos — Eliot Fisk and Zaira Meneses – and their 12-year-old daughter, Raquel Fisk, a piano prodigy who played Carnegie Hall last month.
All three will be performing in Boston’s 8th annual GuitarFest from June 19-23.
The GuitarFest is Eliot Fisk’s creation.
“There are other guitar festivals all over the world,” Fisk told the TAB in a telephone interview from Salzburg. “I wanted to create one with a different theme each year, and show the guitar in a different role.”
“More than a bunch of guitarists getting together and playing and talking, I wanted to gather people together around an interesting theme in a cross-disciplinary way,” said Fisk.
The theme of this year’s festival is “British Invasion” because this year is the approximate 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, the 100th anniversary of the birth of British composer Benjamin Britten, and the 80th birthday of British guitarist Julian Breen.
“Plus,” said Fisk, “Of all American cities, Boston is the most European.”
GuitarFest will feature opening and closing night receptions, workshops for young guitarists, competitions, master classes, a luthier expo, an outing to the Museum of Fine Arts, roundtables, and of course, dozens of piano, lute, and guitar performances from dozens of musicians, many of whom studied under Fisk.
A Shakespearean vignette related to the piece being performed will follow each of the concerts in this year’s GuitarFest.
Fisk teaches classical guitar in five different languages at the New England Conservatory in Boston and the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg, in Austria, and he continues to perform around the world.
Eliot Fisk says he does not come from a musical family, but his 12-year-old daughter Raquel can’t say the same. Her father was a student of Spanish virtuoso Andrés Segovia, who is often credited as being the father of modern classical guitar.
Zaira Meneses, Raquel’s mom, grew up playing classical guitar, starting at the age of six in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and has performed throughout Mexico, the United States, and Europe.
Meneses started winning competitions at the age of 8, and began playing professionally at the age of 15, playing in a guitar orchestra.
At GuitarFest, “We want to give people the experience that the guitar can be elegant and classic,” said Meneses in an interview in the family’s Newton home. She serves as director of community outreach and student affairs for the festival.
Earlier this month, Raquel performed at the Fine Arts Festival in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
“It was a blast. I’m really proud of that one,” Raquel said.
Raquel, who is in the 6th grade at Brown Middle School, said she practices up to three hours each day and when she does, her cats Mimi and Clovey often lie on the window sills in her sunny piano room on the first floor of her home.
Raquel started playing piano at the age of four.
She is also a painter and a writer who is working on completing a novel she began at age 10. She’s a member of the Brown track team.
Raquel calls Niva Fried, her current piano teacher, “my mentor and teacher for absolutely everything. There’s always something new to learn, always welcomes my ideas.”
Of the hundreds of mostly competitive piano players Fried has taught, she says Raquel is “much above average. There is no comparison.”
Raquel said that Fried’s technique is very different from what she is used to.
“It’s more freedom than I’ve ever been allowed.”
“I used to hate practicing. Now I love practicing. It’s a way I can connect with the piano and learn more about it.”
Raquel says that competing in the Boston’s Steinway competition in May was where she played her best. “I was playing Bach and Chopin and that moment was the best I’ve ever played in my whole life,” Raquel said.
“When I’m performing, it’s like I’m reaching out to the audience. If I can make them feel connected to everybody, that’s an accomplishment for me. That is my goal.”
Raquel will open the Guitar Fest Marathon concert with her current favorite, Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words,” and will close the evening with “Serenata” by Joaquin Malats.
Raquel says she loves Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn on the piano, but on her iPod, it’s Nicki Minaj.What does she think of Justin Bieber?
Raquel said, ”He’s got talent. He could be good, but the songs he makes…”
In school, Raquel loves to study English and psychology.
“Human emotions fascinate me,” she said.
“Music brings everything together and makes me happy. Whatever I’m doing, I just want to be happy, because that’s all that really counts. As long as I’m happy, I’m sure I’ll find my way.”